Now is time to deliver
By Stavros Dimas (*) | Friday 04 December 2009
In recent years, the EU has taken huge strides with its climate legislation. When I became commissioner for the environment in 2004, we had a good idea of where we wanted policy to go, but lacked the tools to turn our good intentions into acts.
In a very short space of time, the climate and energy package was passed into law, with tremendous implications for the way we run our industries. At the European level, greenhouse gas emissions are to be reduced by at least 20% by 2020; renewable energy will rise to 20% of the overall mix, and energy efficiency should also rise by 20%. The aim is to boost the market system to control emissions by putting a price on carbon, and boost renewable sources of energy, like wind, solar and biomass.
One year into the first commitment period of Kyoto, and with Copenhagen approaching, the time has come for the rest of the world to follow this example. Big, significant actions are needed. For more than two years, we have been working towards a comprehensive, ambitious, fair, science-based and legally binding international post-2012 agreement aimed at ensuring that the increase in global temperatures stays below 2°C compared to pre-industrial levels. The time has come to deliver.
We need to build on our achievements to date, keeping the best of Kyoto, like the commitments for developed countries, the robust architecture, and tried and tested mechanisms for accounting, monitoring, review and compliance. Other elements can be improved, like the flexible credit-based mechanisms, to which we want to add a sectoral crediting mechanism.
The EU has supported Kyoto from the beginning, and there is no doubt that we will honour our commitments. But the 1997 agreement was always intended to be a stepping stone to something more comprehensive, and extending it would waste time the planet can no longer afford. The time has come for a global solution.
Scientists tell us that keeping to a 2°C objective will require emissions reductions for developed countries of between 25% and 40% by 2020 compared to 1990 levels, and of 15% to 30% compared to business as usual from developing countries. World emissions must peak no later than 2020, and fall 50% by 2050 compared to 1990 levels, if we are to keep within the temperature range. In a context as serious as this, merely extending Kyoto is no option at all – for Kyoto commitments apply to little more than 10% of the world’s emissions. The time has come for commitments from all.
While the EU has been clear about its offer for some time now, our negotiating partners have played their cards rather closer to their chests. We have offered our 20% cut, and our willingness to move to 30% when similar commitments are made. And our position on financing is clear: we believe that the extra cost to developing countries of adapting to and mitigating climate change will be in the region of €100 billion by 2020.
Agreement on how that money is to be found, and on how it will be administered, will be crucial to the success of the Copenhagen conference. A tangible offer with funds available in the very short term will surely convince a number of our partners in the developing world how seriously we take these issues.
Our proposal, starting in 2010, is to finance immediate action in areas like adaptation, and to prepare for implementation of further mitigation actions as well. Let us not forget that some areas of the world have already warmed by two degrees Celsius, and that some further warming is now inevitable. We estimate that €5-7 billion per year will cover these short-term needs, and we are willing to contribute our fair share.
A considerable proportion of the funds developing countries will need should come from an enhanced carbon market. For this market to grow, we must ensure a healthy demand for carbon credits, which will be one of the many bonuses of ambitious emission reduction targets for developed countries. It will also require a reform of the Clean Development Mechanism to focus it on the least developed countries. A sectoral crediting mechanism for competitive sectors in the more economically advanced developing countries will scale up the gains even further.
Kyoto passed into law more than a decade ago, and it expires in a mere three years. Time is not on our side. We need Copenhagen to deliver a robust and operational agreement that will allow a fully-fledged treaty to be finalised as early as possible in the course of next year. The time has come to show determination: heads of state and government must come to Denmark, and not leave without sealing the deal.
(*) Stavros Dimas is a member of the Barroso I Commission in charge of the environment